02 November 2015
Conference Center Laxenburg,
Schlossplatz 1, Laxenburg, AUSTRIA

The solutions underfoot - The power of soil

On 2 November, IIASA is co-hosting a public lecture with Rattan Lal, a distinguished Professor of soil Sciences. The symposium will discuss the functionality of soil, and the interconnected issues associated with it - such as water, climate, food, and environmental security.

© Photo: G. Glatzel, Ethiopia, 2006

© Photo: G. Glatzel, Ethiopia, 2006

The lecture is hosted by 

Gerhard Glatzel Commission for Interdisciplinary Ecological Studies (KIÖS), ÖAW

Bernd Uwe Schneider  German Research Centre for Geosciences (GFZ) 


Rattan Lal  Distinguished Professor of Soil Sciences at the Ohio State University, USA

Among the global issues of the 21st Century, and those driven by the growing and increasingly affluent population are: increasing atmospheric concentration of greenhouse gases and the attendant change in global climate, growing energy demand, excessive water withdrawal and pollution of water resources, tropical deforestation and conversion of natural to agro and urban ecosystems, soil degradation and desertification, food and nutritional insecurity, and growing civil strife and political instability.

The solution to these and other issues lies in soils, their sustainable management, and restoration of degraded and depleted soils. Indeed, soil matters, and must never be taken for granted. Soil functionality and the ecosystem services provisioned by it also impact water security, energy security, climate security, food/nutritional security, health security, environmental security, political security, and national/international security.

The health of soil, plants, animals and humans is interconnected and indivisible. Elimination of hunger and hidden hunger (i.e. deficiency of some essential micronutrients) can be achieved by restoring the quality of soils. Thus, agriculture must be nutrition-sensitive. Soil is also a large reservoir of biodiversity, and microorganisms in soil are the source of most antibiotics. Being the largest repository of C among the terrestrial pools, prudently managed and judiciously restored soils are sink of atmospheric CO2 and critical to any strategy of adaptation and mitigation of climate change.

The technical potential of sequestration of soil organic carbon in the top 30 cm depth is about 2.8 Gt per year. In addition, there also exists potential of sequestration of soil inorganic carbon as secondary carbonates, and of leaching of bicarbonates in lands irrigated with good quality water. Recarbonization of the terrestrial biosphere, soil, and vegetation, can off-set some anthropogenic emissions. Rather than bringing new land under cultivation or expanding irrigation, the strategy is to enhance agronomic production from existing lands by adopting sustainable intensification of agroecosystems; enhancing rhizospheric processes; creating disease-suppressive soils; following the nexus approach to harness synergistic effects; and managing phytobiomes. Urban agriculture must include roof gardens, space/sky farming, and soil-less culture using aquaculture, hydroponics, aeroponics etc. Natural/undisturbed soils must be protected for nature conservancy and other non-agricultural uses for generations to come.

Thus, development of synthetic or artificial soils may be important to management of urban landscapes and adopting soil-less culture. The terrestrial soil resources must be used, improved and restored. Thus, soil stewardship and care must be embedded in every fruit and vegetable eaten, in each grain ground into bread consumed, in every sip of water engulfed, in every breath of air inhaled, and in every scenic landscape cherished. Soil is the essence of all terrestrial life. It can convert death into life. Thus, soil is life and life is soil.


  • 16:45-17:10 Transfer from Vienna - Laxenburg
  • 17:30-18:30 Drinks Reception with light Canapés / Finger Food
  • 18:30-20:00 Lecture “The Solutions Underfoot – The Power of Soil” by Prof. Rattan Lal
  • 20:10 Return transfer to Vienna

Venue: Conference Center Laxenburg, Schlossplatz 1, 2361 Laxenburg, Theatersaal.


There will be a bus leaving Vienna at 16:40 from Museum für angewandte Kunst (Stadtpark entrance), Weiskirchnerstrasse 3, 1010 Vienna, and returning to Vienna at 20:10.  

RSVP by October 28, 2015 (indicating also whether you need a bus transfer): Email: Marie-Therese Pitner , Katica De Pascale

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Last edited: 03 November 2015


Michael Obersteiner

Principal Research Scholar Exploratory Modeling of Human-natural Systems Research Group - Advancing Systems Analysis Program

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